Early forecasts say upland bird season should be fantastic

Upland bird hunters of all ages benefit from the Walk-In Access Program through Colorado Parks and Wildlife. This year, an additional 45,000 acres of private land wil be open to free public hunting.

More than 260,000 acres of pheasant and quail habitat on private lands in eastern Colorado will be open this fall to upland bird hunters when the season opens Nov. 12.

The total includes 45,000 acres newly enrolled in Colorado Park and Wildlife’s popular Walk-In Access program.

The lands are leased from the landowners under state and federal programs aimed at getting more people (read that to mean youths) interested in hunting.

As another enticement, since January 2010 you no longer need to purchase the walk-in stamp, a move by Parks and Wildlife to encourage more hunters to participate in the walk-in program.

The program has proved to be a boon both to hunters and landowners, not the least in freeing the former from fruitlessly knocking on strangers’ doors and freeing the latter from answering the door.

Early forecasts for this year indicate the upland bird season on the eastern plains should follow what Parks and Wildlife has called “phenomenal pheasant hunting”  in 2009 and 2010.

“It’s hard to follow up on two great years and the drought conditions in the southeast part of the state will temper things a bit this year,” said Ed Gorman, small-game manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “Even with less moisture and some severe hail storms this summer, pheasant numbers should still make for plenty of opportunity this fall in some parts of the eastern plains.”

Because a long-term drought has clamped down on bird production in many areas south of Interstate 70, hunters there hoping to fill their bags should seek out irrigated areas, Gorman said.

North of I-70, however, Gorman is predicting good to excellent hunting, particularly in Phillips and Sedgwick counties in the far northeast corner of the state.

He cautioned hunters to expect to find standing corn in many fields.

“We were in really good shape with regards to corn harvest, until the weather turned on Oct. 26,” Gorman said. “Prior to the storm, it looked like nearly all of the corn would be out by the opener, but this storm slowed the harvest.”

Gorman added that hunters must remember regulations close a Walk-In Access parcel to hunting while the landowner is harvesting — particularly with regard to grass sprinkler corners posted with special closure signs.

“Adhering to closure regulations is absolutely critical to maintaining good relations with landowners,” he said.

Although a Walk-In Access permit no longer is needed, hunters must have a small-game license and a Harvest Information Program number.

Hunters can register and receive a HIP number by going on-line to http://www.colohip.com or by calling toll-free at 866-COLO-HIP (866-265-6447).

“Hunters that need to get a HIP number should register now,” Gorman warned. “The phone lines get busy as opening day approaches and hunters can get through the relatively-simple process more quickly if they act now.”

More information about the walk-in program, along with maps of the enrolled lands, is available at Parks and Wildlife offices and online at wildlife.state.co.us, click on “Hunting,” then click on “Small Game.”

Colorado’s pheasant and quail seasons open one-half hour before sunrise on Nov. 12. The seasons run through Jan. 2 or Jan. 31, depending on the area.


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